The Angel of Peace Descending on the Chariot of War by Adrian Jones (1845-1938). 1912. Bronze, much larger than life-size — Jones invited his friends to tea inside the horses before the work was fully assembled (Baker 54), much as Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins had held a dinner inside the mould of one of his enormous dinosaurs at Sydenham on New Year's Eve, 1853. The group shown above crowns the Wellington (or Constitution) Arch on the traffic island at Hyde Park Corner, London. Photographs 2019 by Jacqueline Banerjee. [These images may be used without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Quadriga from the rear, showing the trophies of war loaded on the chariot (cannon, and seized standards).

This statue by Jones replaced Matthew Cotes Wyatt's gigantic — and much criticized — equestrian statue of Wellington that was taken down and not replaced when the arch moved from its first location opposite Apsley House a short distance away to Hyde Park Corner in 1882-83. The Angel of Peace Descending on the Chariot of War takes the form of a quadriga (a racing chariot with four horses used in both the ancient Olympic Games in Greece and later in ancient Rome). Since classical times, the quadriga has served as an emblem of victory, appearing on Berlin's Brandenberg Gate and Paris's Arc du Triomphe. The German and French quadrigas form part of major monuments that have become symbols of the cities in which they appear; the British one here sits on a traffic island near Hyde Park and in its symbolic role is overshadowed by the more embellished March Arch at the other end of the park, facing Oxford Street at its junction with Park Lane and Edgware Road.

The young driver, leaning forward as he holds the horses' reins, is just visible in the middle here, below the central figure of Peace.

Nevertheless, the sculpture itself is both grand in conception and dynamic in effect, as one might expect from a sculptor who had spent many years with the cavalry. Jones also spent a long time — four years — preparing the group, which Margaret Baker says is "regarded as his crowning achievement" (53). The main figure, carrying a wreath to symbolise victories won, and an olive branch to symbolise peace established, is as vibrant as the horses. So too is the young driver of the chariot, who leans forward eagerly, reins in hand. In a personal touch, this figure was modelled by Herman Alfred Stern (1900–1984), who was eleven at the time Jones was starting the work. He was the son of the wealthy merchant banker Herbert Stern, first Baron Michelham (1851–1919), who presented the work to the nation in 1912 "as a mark of deepest loyalty and respect to his late revered Majesty Edward VII" (plaque on the west side). It seems ironic that the First World War should have broken out little more than two years after the sculpture's installation. [GPL and JB].

Bibliography

Baker, Margaret. London Statues and Monuments. Princes Risborough, Buks: Shire, 1995.

Cork, Richard. Foreword. The Great War and the British Empire: Culture and Society. Ed. Michael J. K. Walsh and Andrekos Varnava. London: Routledge, 2017. xv-xxiv.

"History of Wellington Arch." English Heritage. Web. 17 May 2019.

Orbell, John. "Stern family (per. c. 1830–1964), merchant bankers." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 17 May 2019.

"Quadriga." Wikipedia. 26 August 2006. [A particularly detailed, nicely illustrated entry!]


Last modified 17 May 2019